Sifu launched last February on PlayStation and PC and quickly built a passionate core following due to its hard-hitting action and interesting “aging” core mechanics. Now, nine months later, Sloclap’s martial arts brawler has arrived on Switch with a solid port that doesn’t sacrifice anything that made the original release so great.
You begin the game by infiltrating a rain-soaked temple, beating up the students inside, and eventually teaming up with allies as you make your way further into the building. When you reach the top, you are revealed to be Yang, who fights the temple’s sifu and kills him as his children watch from a cupboard. This child is subsequently killed by one of Yang’s associates. But a locket in the child’s hand brings them back to life. Henceforth called “Hero”, the child is the protagonist of the game, who – after turning 20 – seeks revenge.
Sifu tasks you with making your way through five stages to defeat those involved and eventually find Yang. The core mechanic involves the locket that revived your character as a child, giving the hero the ability to cheat death. However, this comes at a price: every time you die, you age another year and a death counter ticks up by one. So, you start the game at 20, you die once, your counter is up one, and now you’re 21. If you die again, your death counter is two and you’re now 23. This culminates with your first death over age 70 being your last However, defeating enemies can reverse this counter to reduce how much you age on death.
So what happens as the years go by? Every decade the hero ages visibly. The older you get, the more damage you take, but you also do more damage. The game features unlockable skills using points obtained upon death or after reaching a shrine. These can be unlocked for a specific run, or they can be made permanent by buying them five more times after an unlock (this doesn’t have to be done all at once though). When you reach your next decade, you lose access to a set of unlockable abilities for that run (other than the ones you’ve already unlocked, of course). Don’t worry, it sounds more complicated than it is.
When replaying levels, you can start the level at the earliest age you previously reached the level as. So if you reach level two at age 54, you can start the next run from that level at the same age.
Combat is the star of the show. Sifu draws inspiration from classic films such as Gareth Evans The Raid and Park Chan-wook’s masterpiece Old boy, paying homage to the fierce hand-to-hand combat scenes of those films. You are equipped with a light and heavy attack, a dodge and a guard/parry as your core. Light and heavy can be chained into their own specific combos, as well as specific directional inputs combined with your buttons for certain moves. One area where this combat really shines is how it challenges you to completely master your environment. If you see a stool on the floor, or a bottle on the bar, these can be kicked/thrown at your enemy at a moment’s notice. You can also back your enemies into walls to make those hits worse, or even throw them off a balcony or kick them down a flight of stairs.
This is what Batman Arkham combat would feel like it had the mechanical complexity of a game like Devil May Cry. Often you take on many enemies at once; By wearing down their stun meter, you can perform a takedown move much like the ones in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Sifu’s battle is felt Extremely well. The combination of visual effects and sound effects gives each hit a meaty feel, which really nails the visceral experience of watching the best kind of action movie.
It’s a good thing you can come back from the dead in Sifu, because you will die. Very. Sifu is tough as nails, there’s no two ways about it. Learning and making the most of dodges and parries is essential to your survival, much like the games that inspired it, such as Capcom’s God Hand. Once you get the hang of things, there’s nothing quite like it; the satisfaction of finally toppling a boss that has been destroying you for ages makes all the blood, sweat and tears worth it.
If that difficulty doesn’t sound like your thing, developer Sloclap has thankfully added options since launch to help you out. In addition to the new Student and Master difficulties to make it easier and harder respectively, the game also has a list of game modifiers that you can unlock after completion that can make your experience easier or harder as you see fit.
The Switch edition runs at 30FPS compared to elsewhere, and outside of one point early on in the first level, there aren’t many major frame drops that we noticed when docked. The handheld tends to drop a little more often, but this usually happens while walking around, rather than during actual combat, thankfully. Visually, the game has ported over to the more modest hardware quite well, thanks in part to its striking art style. There’s a film grain effect that’s super noticeable in docked mode; while not game-breaking by any means, it’s enough to stand out, especially against the white light of the museum scene. The initial loads are also quite long compared to the PS5; but they are perfectly manageable and just look really bad in direct comparison.
Sifu was one of the best games of the year when it launched on other platforms, and it’s no different now on Switch. Its fierce combat that pushes you to the limits of your skill, along with a clever aging mechanic, makes for one of the most satisfying gaming experiences in the beat ’em up genre. While the Switch port is obviously a bit downgraded from the PS5 version, it’s still a more than valid option for Nintendo-only gamers and those looking to try this kung-fu brawler on the go.
#Review #Sifu #Sloclaps #KungFu #Epic #Revives #Switch